13 September, 2012

SIX: Lattes and Promises

“I understand, Mrs. Freedman. Uh huh.” She waved Steph over and pointed to the register. Michelle was worth her weight in diamonds, but it was getting to be all hands on deck. Christmas Eve was tomorrow and the special orders were flying off the shelves. New York was crawling with pedestrians for the holiday windows and to get a look at Rockefeller Center.
And while that wasn’t exactly close to her, Ever After was definitely enjoying the overflow as people flocked to Canal Street for those special deals they were famous for. Who was she to judge if you wanted a real or a knock off Coach bag? The fact that she was getting the real deal lately was hard to fathom.
She stuffed a tissue wrapped glass bowl into one of her reusable bags—they’d been a hit this season. Switching ears, she mmhmmed until the woman talked herself out. Bless her heart, she’d ordered the British version of Harry Potter for all six of her grandchildren and the truck was somewhere east of Manhattan.
She had ever confidence that it would be there by the end of business today, but the woman was seriously losing her mind. “I promise as soon as my post office guy gets here I’ll call you. No, it’s no trouble.”
Steph’s eyebrows rose into her overlong bangs. She mouthed Mrs. Freedman and Tessa nodded. Steph ducked under the counter and rolled her eyes so the customer couldn’t see.
Tessa grinned back at her. “Absolutely.” She hung up. “You’re a very bad, woman.”
Steph laughed. “I can’t believe the amount of schmoozing you do. It’s like you’re a mini-dad most of the time.”
“Customer service isn’t that far away from placating the masses.”
“Dad could probably do it in his sleep.”
“I think he does.”
“He does get this far away look in his eyes sometimes.”
Tessa laughed. “He does.”
The sleigh bell over the door trilled and they both looked up. The sun glinted on Jon’s light hair like a halo. Too bad the angels didn’t get the memo. Her husband was definitely one of the fallen.
The glint in his eye softened as his eyes drifted to his daughter. And that was one of the million reasons she’d fallen so hard for him. As hot as they flamed, the gentle yet fierce love he had for his kids was just as sexy.
He held a take-away cup tray full of coffees up. “Thought my girls could use a pick me up.”
“I could kiss you.”
“Guess what? You are totally allowed to kiss your husband.”
She moved to the end of the counter and leaned over. “Is that right?” The kiss was light and sweet and she could taste espresso on his tongue. High octane kind of day evidently.
His lips curved up into a smile as he eased back. “We’re escaping for two weeks in February.”
She opened her mouth. With the shop down two employees she couldn’t promise anything, but the look in his eyes made her shut her mouth. She’d make it work. They needed time alone and away from the city. “Happy Valentine’s Day me.”
His winter blue eyes warmed. “Red bikini?”
“Get access to that yacht again and I might skip the bikini.”
His eyes went from playful to molten and she laughed. No Viagra for her husband. He was as sexual as a twenty year old when he put his mind to it. And he definitely put his mind to it on a regular basis.
“What time are we heading out to Jersey tomorrow?”
Way to fizzle her buzz. “We’re closing up at four.”
Steph skipped down to them and snagged two cups. “Thanks, Dad.” She brought one to Michelle and set it next to the register. Considering they hadn’t had time to even think about taking a break, she wasn’t going to enforce her usual no liquids near the register thing. They all needed whatever form of energy they could find. It was going to be a crazy night.
“We’re staying open until eleven tonight for the last minute shoppers and the special orders people need to pick up before going out of town.”
“Richie and Ava are coming in tonight. His Aunt isn’t up to the travel this year.”
Tessa slid her fingers around his wrist. “Is she okay?”
“Yeah, just getting over bronchitis.”
“So, I’ll have you boys up when I get home?”
Jon’s mouth turned up at the corner. “Maybe.”
“Don’t get into too much trouble.”
“No promises, love.”
Tessa laughed and leaned over the counter. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the line hit eight customers deep. His hand slid into her hair and caught her before she pulled back. The kiss wasn’t so sweet this time. The bite of espresso burned her tongue as he locked her mouth with his. He nipped her lower lip on the way out of the kiss and her head felt full of cotton candy. “Tonight you’re mine.”
Her eyes slid to the register. The girls were laughing and paying way too much attention to them. “We have company remember?”
“The Navasink house is going to be crawling with people. You’ll just have to be quiet.”
“What’s my incentive?”
His grin turned sly. “Don’t you want your Christmas orgasm, wife?”
She knew his voice was low enough that it didn’t carry, but she looked around anyway. “I get orgasms all the time.”
He barked out a quick laugh. “I’ll make sure to be extra giving. I do like to get into the holiday spirit.”
She flicked her nail through the dent in his chin. “Christmas tonight it is.”

05 January, 2012

FIVE: Lights, Camera, No Action

Tessa tucked her hand into the crook of Jon’s arm. They followed a few dozen people for the picture they wanted to take out in the courtyard. The trees sparkled in the clear night sky. Their frosty white lights twined around grasping braches, weaving a stage for the Rockefeller Center Spruce tree and her timeless colored lights and bright crystal star. The Rock speared into the sky glowing creamy white against the inky black. Even the stars couldn’t compete with beauty of Christmastime in New York City.
Flags snapped in the light breeze as they were lined up for the charity’s website photo. The JBJ Soul Foundation opened doors for so many and she honestly didn’t mind giving a night up to support it, but the day was catching up to her. With all the beauty around her, she could only focus on one thing. Standing up for the picture and getting the hell out of there and into her warm bed.
As usual, when there were so many different levels of famous in one place, it took forever to get everyone situated in the lineup. Those that thought they were far more important than was wise vied for status slots in the center of the groupings. Then came the governmental status versus power positions next to the famous.
She and Jon were juggled so many times she was ready to use her stiletto for leverage just to get the picture taken. After her tenth growl and shuffle Jon slid his hand up to the nape of her neck and craned her face up to his. “Inside growls like me, Tessa.”
She wrinkled her nose and sighed, rubbing her cheek against the lapel of his tux. “I could fall asleep where I stand.”
“Just a few more minutes and we’re out of here. I got a text from Henry. He’s on the corner of 48th and 5th and ready to roll.”
“Thank, Jesus.”
“Nope, I think we’re going to have to thank Henry this time.”
She snorted. “I’ll kiss the big lug as long as he gets me to the house and my bed.”
“Well, I’m getting you to our bed, not Henry.”
“Not sure Henry would know what to do with me besides Ma’am me to death.”
They both chuckled and the first flashes went off that were of the non-paparazzi kind. They stood still for a series of test shots and then finally…finally, the last series of continuous shutter shots that would hopefully get everyone smiling without blinking or making a face. Hell, she didn’t care if she was even showing in the photo.
“Okay, thank you everyone!”
And like that, you’d think the President was waiting in the wings as everyone scattered. There were no long goodbyes, nor small talk. The night breeze left behind frozen feet in dress shoes and very cranky officials. Jon waved to a few people that he hadn’t gotten to talk to, but instead of his usual schmoozing he hustled her around the corner.
A few blinding flash bulbs from the paparazzi that had been waiting for an opportunity were followed by Jon’s glower. They skipped up the stairs to her favorite car in the whole wide world, at least right then, and they were inside.
He fell back against the seat with sagging shoulders and closed eyes. Both of them quiet as Henry pulled into traffic. Tessa slid across the cushy seat and rested her cheek against Jon’s chest. His light, spicy scent and warmth curled around her as she blinked out for the rest of the ride home.

Jon drew an absent thumb over her shoulder as the street lights shone through the tinted windows. Memories of a different night intruded. Tessa had fallen asleep, curled into him that night too. New Year’s Eve at Elton’s party, her first introduction to the intrusive life of press and photogs. It was old hat now, but no less annoying. And yet she chose to come out with him—to be with him—even when she was obviously ready to drop.
He wasn’t sure what he’d do without her.
The only thing he knew for sure is that he was determined never to find out.
As they rolled to a stop in front of their penthouse, he gathered her in closer. He nuzzled her neck, nipping at the edge of her ear. The chuffing laughter drew his tired lips into a smile. “Wake up Sleeping Beauty.”
She turned her mouth to his, finding him in the dark. The kiss was sweet and soft filled with her breath and the magic of the evening. She pulled back, her eyes bleary but clear. “Is it finally over?”
Tessa let him draw her out of the car and to the door. They both waved half heartedly at the doorman and he slapped his palm on the plate. The door opened quickly, one more testament to the lateness of the night. He hooked an arm around her shoulders and drew her into the elevator. She leaned heavily against him. Without thought, he brushed a kiss at her temple and lifted her off her feet.
The fact that she barely complained told him just how tired she was. Twelve hour days at the store were on the horizon and she needed rest. The doors opened to the murmurs of a pair of girls.
He smiled as his daughter and her best friend stood up. Steph smiled and sat back down. Tessa was out already. She’d hit her wall. Climbing the stairs to their bedroom was a bit of a trial. Crawling around on the floor before the party tweaked his knee, but he wouldn’t put her down.
He got her up to their room and settled her into bed, drawing her clothes off her gently until she rolled under the sheets with a sigh. “Stay,” she murmured.
“Steph and Michelle are here. I need to settle them in.” Her green eyes popped open as she sat up. He pushed her back. “They’re already settled, don’t worry. I can handle it.”
She curled back into her pillows with a yawn. “I don’t know about that one, but I’m too tired to argue.”
“Praise, Jesus.”
Her eyes closed and her cheek snuggled into the pillow she smiled. “Smart ass.”
He leaned down, kissing the tip of her nose. “You love my ass.”
“Yeah, yeah. Kiss your daughter for me.”
“You got it.”
“Kiss me first.”
He settled a soft kiss on her lips, but she was already out. He stood, smoothed a curl behind her ear and stripped out of his suit into sweats and a t-shirt before going back down to see Steph.
The girls were watching a concert of all things. Jon dropped onto the couch next to his daughter and raised his eyebrows. “Bush?”
Steph leaned in and hugged him. “I know. Gavin’s still freaking hot.”
Jon rolled his eyes. The world was in that cyclical pattern again. Looks like the nineties were going to make a bit of a resurgence. Good thing they weren’t ready for a new album right now. Crap. “You aren’t old enough to appreciate grunge.”
She giggled. “Tell that to the college campuses that are hosting nineties parties.”
Her laughter was musical and very welcome. He sat back, throwing his arm across the couch so that Steph rolled into him for a cuddle. He made the required small talk with her friend and found himself enjoying the next hour. Even tired as he was, the girls were obviously happy and the mood was infectious. By the time they were ready to pack it in for the night, the clock was showing well after 2am.
Michelle moved ahead into the room they would share and left them alone. “Thanks for coming out with such short notice.”
“I’m even more glad I did after watching you carry in Tessa. Geeze, Dad, she was exhausted.”
“Between the store and my schedule, she’s about shot. Losing those workers really killed her Christmas plans. I didn’t expect her to come out for the gala tonight.”
“She wants to be with you and show support for the Foundation, Dad.”
“I know. I just had to marry an overachiever like me.”
“Like follows like,” she said with a sunny smile. On tiptoes, she kissed him. “I’ll go in with her in the morning and she can show Michelle the ropes. She’s a fast learner. She worked at the campus bookstore.”
“Now who’s the rockstar?”
“Definitely me,” she said over her shoulder with a cute little wiggle.
Jon sighed and hit the stairs to the upstairs half of the apartment where their bedroom was. Moonlight poured across the sleeping bundle on the right side of the bed, one foot flung out from the covers and her arm dangling off the side.
He slid into their bed, rolling her toward him. She came with a murmur and tired moan and pressed her cheek into his chest. “It’s not morning yet.”
“Nope, go back to sleep.”
Her response was a sleepy mmm before she fell heavily against him, sleep completely claiming her. Tomorrow was another day and hopefully with a little help from his kid she’d be a little less crazed.